News and Notes

Issue Date April 2017
Volume 28
Issue 2
Page Numbers 188–90
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Oswaldo Payá Award

The Latin American Youth Network for Democracy (JuventudLAC) named Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States and former foreign minister of Uruguay, as the recipient of its first annual Oswaldo Payá Award for Liberty and Life. The award is named for prominent Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, who was the founder of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement. He was also the organizer of the Varela Project, which gathered signatures of Cuban citizens in support of a referendum on democracy and human rights. Payá’s death in July 2012 was widely suspected to have been orchestrated by the Cuban government. His daughter, Rosa María, is president of Juven-tudLAC.

Almagro was prevented from entering Cuba to receive the award in person at the February 22 ceremony in Havana. The Cuban consulate in Washington, citing Almagro’s involvement in “anti-Cuban activities,” rejected Almagro’s request for an entry visa and barred him from entering the country using his Uruguayan passport. Several international invitees were also denied entry on these grounds, including Mariana Aylwin, whose father Patricio Aylwin (the first democratically elected president of Chile) was posthumously honored, and Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico.

Democratic Deconsolidation: An Exchange

Two articles by Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, published in these pages in July 2016 and January 2017, respectively, explored the dangers of a phenomenon that they call “democratic deconsolidation.” Their argument drew heavily on survey data pointing to a decline in popular support for democracy among citizens in the advanced democracies of Europe and North America.

These articles generated an unprecedented outpouring of popular commentary, including a November [End Page 188] 29 profile in the New York Times. They also prompted responses from a number of scholars, especially regarding Foa and Mounk’s analysis of the survey data.

We have decided to make available to readers on the Journal’s website three of these responses—by Pippa Norris, Erik Voeten, and Amy C. Alexander and Christian Welzel—and have offered Foa and Mounk an opportunity to reply. This content should be available by the end of April at

Yazidi Activists Honored

Three Yazidi women activists recently received awards for their efforts to promote awareness of the plight of the Yazidi community in Iraq.

In a December 13 ceremony in Strasbourg, Martin Schulz, then-president of the European Parliament, presented the 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Nadia Murad Basee Taha and Lamiya Aji Bashar of Kocho, Iraq. In 2014, Murad and Aji Bashar were imprisoned and forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State. They recount their story in a short video, available at

On February 21, a teenage Yazidi activist known by the pseudonym Shirin was awarded the 2017 Women’s Rights Award at the ninth-annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Shirin’s 2016 memoir, I Remain a Daughter of the Light, tells of her nine-month captivity by ISIS fighters.

Human-Rights Summit

The ninth-annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy was held on February 21. Organized by a coalition of twenty-five human-rights NGOs, the summit convened several hundred activists, dissidents, journalists, and diplomats for a daylong conference held one week prior to the opening of the thirty-fourth annual regular session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The summit featured the presentation of the 2017 Courage Award to Mohamed Nasheed, who in 2008 became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. Due to sustained intimidation by the Maldivian military and police, Nasheed resigned from the presidency in 2012. In 2015, he was sentenced to thirteen years in prison—a judgment deemed by Amnesty International to be politically motivated. Nasheed is now based in the United Kingdom, where he has been granted asylum.

Remembering U Ko Ni (1953–2017)

On January 30, tens of thousands of mourners convened in Yangon, Burma, for the funeral of U Ko Ni, a noted human-rights lawyer and prominent member of the country’s Muslim minority who was assassinated at Yangon International Airport on January 29. Ko Ni, a legal [End Page 189] consultant to the ruling National League for Democracy party, was fatally shot upon returning from a government-organized trip to Indonesia to participate in a conference on conflict resolution. Prior to his death, Ko Ni had been preparing an amended version of Burma’s 2008 constitution that contained provisions weakening the political power of the military.

NED’s International Forum

On January 10, Yascha Mounk of Harvard University delivered a presentation entitled “The Signs of Democratic Deconsolidation.” Mounk elaborated on his article (coauthored with Roberto Stefan Foa) of the same title that appeared in the Journal’s January 2017 issue. Larry Diamond of Stanford University and William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution offered comments.

On February 23, Robert Orttung of George Washington University and Elizabeth Nelson delivered a briefing on “Measuring Russia Today’s Impact on YouTube.”

On March 7, the Forum and NED’s Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) cohosted a discussion entitled “Beyond the Great Firewall,” featuring new Forum director Shanthi Kalathil. The event marked the launch of a CIMA report authored by Kalathil, which considers China’s three-pronged strategy to dominate the global information ecosystem. Rebecca MacKinnon of New America offered comments.

The Forum also hosted several events featuring Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows. On January 31, Glanis Changachirere (Zimbabwe), founding director of the Institute for Young Women Development, delivered a presentation entitled “Young Women’s Political Participation in Zimbabwe: A Struggle Within a Struggle.” Comments were provided by Lisa VeneKlasen of Just Associates.

On February 1, Andrej Nosov (Serbia), director of the Heartefact Fund, participated in a panel discussion entitled “Stability and Progress in the Western Balkans: Threats, Predictions, Solutions.” Panelists included Goran Miletić of Civil Rights Defenders; Jasmin Mujanović of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation; and Sandra Orlović of the Humanitarian Law Center.

On February 15, Michael C. Davis (Hong Kong), senior fellow with the Center for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, delivered a presentation titled “The Promise of Constitutionalism: Supporting Democracy and Human Rights in Emerging Democracies in Asia.” Comments were provided by Jack A. Gold-stone of George Mason University and Donald L. Horowitz of Duke University.

In March, the Forum welcomed a new group of Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows: May Al Taher (Jordan), Nawaf Haskan (Iraq/United States), Arthur Larok (Uganda), Raul Peñaranda (Bolivia), César Ricaurte (Ecuador), and James Smart (Kenya). This group will be in residence through July 2017. [End Page 190]

Copyright © 2017 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press